The words of our beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) are full of rich lessons. Among them is his address during the farewell Hajj. This is the fourth in a series of articles on The Prophet’s Last Sermon, Lessons for Humanity.
The twelvth element is on the fraternity of humanity, “O people, your Lord is One, and your father is one. All of you are from Adam, and Adam was from earth.”
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) talked about the fraternity of the believers. Here there is a sense of the fraternity of humanity and the key to that fraternity (which is humility and leaving aside personal or collective pride).
True Rank: Mindfulness (Taqwa) and No Racism
The thirteenth lesson is on true rank, which is mindfulness of Allah, and that there is no place for racism in our religion nor in one who is upholding the Prophetic way.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The noblest of you in Allah’s sight is the most godfearing. Arab has no merit over non-Arab other than godfearingness. Have I given the message? – O Allah, be my witness. – At this, they said yes.”
The Duty to Convey Religious Guidance
Then there is a brief statement, but it is a lesson unto itself: The duty to convey religious guidance. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) then said, “Then let whoever is present tell whoever is absent”
Inheritance and Estates are Pre-Apportioned
The fifteenth is on inheritance and estates, “O people: Allah has apportioned to every deserving heir his share of the estate. No deserving heir may accept a special bequest. And no special bequest may exceed a third of the estate.”
Before Islam, people would apportion their property in different ways. They may have liked a particular child more than the other so they would give one child all their property or more of their property. Some cultures had the notion that the oldest child would be the inheritor.
Islamically, the wealth would be distributed amongst both male and female inheritors. That is more conducive to social equity. By being pre-apportioned, there are wisdoms of this not leading to disputes within families.
Lineage, Adultery, and the Sanctity of Family
Finally, there is an emphasis on how lineage is established, the harm of adultery and the sanctity of family. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “A child’s lineage is that of the [husband who owns the] bed, and adulterers shall be stoned. Whoever claims to be the son of someone besides his father or a bondsman who claims to belong to other than his masters shall bear the curse of Allah and the angels and all men: no deflecting of it or ransom for it shall be accepted from him.”
Adultery in the context of marriage is devastating. It breaks relationships. Marriages commonly do not survive adultery. Children born out of wedlock are disadvantaged. Generally, the woman has to raise that child and she is disadvantaged as a result. So there are rules related to this. A child’s lineage is established through the marital bed, through marriage.
Prescribed punishments (Hudud) are warded off. They are meant to be deterrents and warnings, that people do not approach harm. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is reported to have said, “Ward off the prescribed punishments through any element of doubt.”
The rulings are firm. Their wisdom is deterrence and keeping away from harm.
Preserve Honor and Dignity
One of the key aims of the sacred law is the preservation of people’s good name and the preservation of family and lineage. If family breaks apart, society breaks apart.
This is a narration of the farewell pilgrimage. Several evident lessons and themes are coming through such as the wisdom of law, the importance of justice and acting justly. There is the theme of the believer being a person of trust and someone conscious of Allah.
Faith, if it is true, would make a believer worthy of trust because they hold themselves accountable before Allah. That is the basis of true accountability. One of the European authors said, “Were it not for society, most people would behave like wild animals.”In reality, as Allah tells us:
إِنۡ هُمۡ إِلَّا كَٱلۡأَنۡعَـٰمِ بَلۡ هُمۡ أَضَلُّ سَبِیلًا
“They are naught but like herd animals; Rather they are even further astray in path.” [Quran, 25:44; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]
They are more astray because wild animals are fulfilling their existential purpose. However, the human being who acts on a mere whim is not fulfilling their existential purpose. The sense of accountability before Allah is critical.
We also learn of concern for the other, whether in individual relations (such as between husband and wife or vice versa, and other personal relations) or at a societal level.
We see the fraternity of faith and the fraternity of humanity. There are certain key themes of how the believer approaches life.
How do we understand who a righteous believer is? The scholars defined for us, “A righteous servant is one who fulfills the rights of Allah and who fulfills the rights of Allah’s servants.”
We also see that rulings are there to preserve human good ultimately. Some rulings are firm. They limit what we can choose to do. However, we understand them by understanding their long-term consequences, their long-term worldly consequences or their next worldly consequences.
Sometimes if a person just sees a ruling on its own and does not understand the context of it, the consequence of it, the wisdom of it, the mercy of it, the justice of it, he may see it as troublesome.
This is why one needs to be able to step back and see the perspective, the context, the consequence, the wisdom, the mercy and the justice in it or through it, to appreciate the mercy, wisdom and justice of the All-Merciful.